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The 5 Hidden Stresses of Adulting

Suddenly high school doesn’t seem so bad!

Credit: Shutterstock/Abscent Vector

Last week, a harsh reality hit me.

When browsing for items for my first apartment, I reacted to the ‘2 for the price of 1toilet brushes in the local discount store with an embarrassing amount of excitement.

I then rushed straight to the reduced section of the supermarket next door and was ecstatic to find a half-price pack of lettuce. Don’t even get me started on the home decor shop.

My jaw-dropping at the shelves and shelves of household appliances must have mirrored that of a kid in a candy shop. It was official: I had finally become an adult.

If only the ridiculous shopping habits were the only noticeable change.

The freedom that comes with being an adult is what we waited for our entire childhood. Though, when it actually arrives, it’s overwhelming. Independence brings responsibility, and responsibility brings burdens. Scary, serious ‘grown-up’ problems come out of hiding as an unavoidable reminder that youth is over.    

A survey carried out by the British Mental Health Foundation found that 60% of young people (aged 18 to 24) have at times felt unable to cope with the pressure to succeed. This huge majority suggests that there is another side to the fun and games of college years, which many teenagers are not prepared for.

Here are some of the main challenges affecting the daily lives of young adults and a few suggestions on how to avoid them:

1. The World Of Work

Back view of engineer woman in hardhat and sketched concept on wall.
The average age for people in the US to get their first job is 17. Credit: Shutterstock/Khakimullin Aleksandr

What do you want to be when you’re older? When you’re young and don’t need an answer yet, you have a million. When you’re old, and it’s time for a real response, you’re lost for words. LinkedIn is the new Instagram. Connections replace friend requests. Whether it be your studies or extracurriculars, it feels as though your life has simply become a ladder of strategic steps toward your career. 

However, what isn’t publicized enough is that an adult will have an average of 12 different professions during their working career. While relatives, teachers and friends will bombard you with questions about the future, it’s okay to be unsure. The odds show that, at some point down the line, you will change your mind anyway.

That is by no means to say don’t work hard. Pressure will help you perform, but only in moderation. Don’t compare yourself to others or let yourself be influenced by enforced expectations.  The only person who must deal with the consequences of the job you choose is you. Rather than letting this journey consume your life, enjoy it and embrace it. Opportunities will arise when you least expect them. 

2. Cost Of Living

A man is holding a jar labelled 'Savings'. The jar is filled with coins.
Young adults are struggling to save money amidst inflation. Credit: Unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya

Everything costs money. This may be pointing out the obvious, but until moving out, I had not fully grasped the weight of this concept. Salt, pepper, a mop bucket, clothes hangers, bleach. Things you never realized you needed and just had in the house. And the cherry on top: bills. The guaranteed hundreds of pounds leaving your account every month is a shock to the system that certainly takes some adjusting to.

It’s important to find your own financial balance. While it’s okay to be stingy, it’s also okay to treat yourself now and then. If you are sharing your living space with others, find ways to save together in an economically fair way. Splitwise is a useful app where you can add any collective expenses to a running bill and then ‘settle up’ at the end of each month. It certainly normalizes asking a roommate to pay you back $0.50 for some toothpaste.

Budgeting can be tedious, so find inventive ways to lighten it up. Examples include challenging yourself to create a new recipe with only a certain number of ingredients or recycling some clothes rejected by a friend. Student life is certainly not luxurious, but it is important to appreciate all that you already have.

3. The Social Battery

Cartoon image of two women in conversation. Woman on the left looks tired and is labelled with a low battery symbol. Woman on the right looks happy and is labelled with full battery symbol.
“Social battery” describes the amount of energy a person has for socializing. Credit: Shutterstock/

While the pressure of academics is recognized, that of socializing is often overlooked. Moving out or to college often means meeting new people, which in turn comes with the expectation of making lots of friends. However, the truth is that only time and experience will reveal which people you truly belong with, which unfortunately can’t be fast-forwarded by attending every social event under the sun. 

Take the time to get to know new peers on a genuine level, but don’t sacrifice your own well-being in the process. One thing that stood out to me during my own college Fresher’s Week was the impossibility of saying “no.” FOMO (fear of missing out) is a powerful emotion that makes you forget the value of alone time and recharging your social battery. Remember: if they are truly your friends, that one party you missed won’t make them disappear. 

4. No Turning Back

No returns road sign. Black and white arrow with red cross.
Anxiety over making big decisions is common. Credit: Unsplash/Pedro Honn

Last, and possibly the most irrational of all, is the fear of finality. You are an adult now. There’s no turning back. Each decision seems like an eternal oath. Relationships may now lead to marriage. Course selections lead to a job. Less free time means you can only commit to certain hobbies, forcing the rejects to be cast aside and never returned to.

These common perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like with the range of careers mentioned before, there is always room for change. It’s the 21st century; divorce exists! And who will stop you from joining an adult hockey team in your forties or starting saxophone lessons again?

Obviously, some decisions (buying a house, for instance) may tie you down in some ways, but don’t think each small choice you make will determine your entire fate. Time is still on your side, so stop the quarter-life crisis now!

5. A Final Note

Whatever stage you are at in your transition to adulthood, I hope these examples have helped relieve some anxiety. If you identify with any of these worries, know that you are not the only one. And if you don’t yet, use the tips in preparation to avoid unnecessary stress. After all, as the famous quote goes,

“You are only young once, and if you work it right, once is enough.”

Written By

Hi I'm Layla! I'm a UCL student from the UK, studying English Literature. I enjoy writing about travel and social issues.

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